Last Updated: May 29th, 2012 - 03:07:02
| How to Spot a Bad Mole
By Aleksandr Kavokin MD/PhD
Apr 22, 2008, 22:09
This morning you took a bath. The warm water felt so nice during the cold winter day. There was some funny spot of skin itching on your back. You looked in the mirror, turned this way, and that way. There is small mole on your back. You remember this spot had been there for years, since childhood. Did this spot cause that strange itching?
Recently you heard the news that there are more than 50,000 new melanoma cases every year. This number grows 3% per year.
What is going on? Is that small spot on you back out of control?
Several types of skin tumors exist. Many are slow growers. Simple removal will cure the majority of skin tumors.
Melanoma brings trouble; big time.
Melanos = black, oma = tumor.
You can detect melanoma by self-exam. Skin cancers show themselves much easier than any other types of cancer.
You can cure melanoma by simple surgical resection. However, catch this tumor in the early stage. Your surgeon can not cut off every metastasis in your body.
There are numerous sites dedicated to melanoma self-exams. Just type in the word "melanoma" into any search engine. Follow instructions.
Fair skinned people have more chances of developing melanoma, however, dark skinned people develop melanoma too.
Everybody has moles. How do you find out if your mole has became dangerous?
Danger signs include ABCD:
A- asymmetry. A suspicious mole does not look like a round or oval blot. Often, early melanoma look rather like a blot with an odd shape.
B- borders. Borders become irregular, uneven, fuzzy. The edges of the blots may become notched.
C- color. Color of a normal mole should be more or less homogenous. A change in color is very suspicious. There are shades of brown, black, tan, and red. Mottled coloring is also suspicious.
D- diameter. A change in diameter is suspicious too. Moles that are bigger than 6 mm is suspicious. Everybody compares 6 mm to a pencil eraser (though few people actually use it extensively). Just to get idea about the borderline size.
Besides ABCD there could be other signs of dangerous moles:
E - enlargement and elevation over the time
Other worrisome signs include easy bleeding and erythema (redness) around the mole.
Itching and pain in the side of a mole should make you suspicious as well.
History of melanoma in Family should also raise suspicions.
Some skin problems look like melanoma, but are actually harmless. Don't gamble with them. Even experienced physicians can not always tell if the lesion is malignant or not. It is better to be safe then sorry, and check the troubling changes soon.
Some rare types of melanoma exist. Since even obvious melanomas are not always diagnosed on time, the unusual types becomes much more deadlier. Often doctor sees them too late.
Melanoma under the nails. Melanoma of mucous membranes. (Mouth, nose or guts) Amelanotic melanoma - this one is not even colored.
The treatment will be excision with margins and biopsy, but the most important part of the course is to catch the melanoma. The treatment will also depend on the thickness of the tumor and the presence of distant metastasis.
A surgeon or dermatologist will cut off the melanoma. Then, A pathologist (doctor specializing in lab diagnostics) looks at the sample under a microscope.
He then classifies the tumor. The grade of the tumor gives the clue to the chances of your survival.
There are several classifications
Breslow classifications measure the penetration of the lesion into skin by millimeters. Know that > 0.75 mm is already dangerous, but > 4 mm is wacking.
What is 4 mm. Take a ruler and check how 1 mm looks and how 4 mm looks.
There is also Clarks classification that measures the penetration of the melanoma into the skin and other layers.
TNM classification standardizes the grading.
You can not know the grade unless you excise and measure the melanoma penetration under a microscope. It is not a do-it-yourself project. A surgeon and pathologist will do it.
The time of evolvement: 1-2 years.
The frequency of melanoma is increasing. It might be because of more people get sun damage. Also other reasons may play role.
Treatment of melanoma includes surgical removal, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiation therapy.
Aleksandr Kavokin MD/PhD, Phila
Aleksandr Kavokin, MD1994 Russia,PhD1997 Russia - Immunology and Allergy, postdoc at Cancer Center at Med U of South Carolina, postdoc at Yale - Cardiology, Molecular Medicine. http://www.kavokin.com http://www.kavokin.uni.cc http://www.geocities.com/aging_rejuvenation/ http://www.appendicitis.uni.cc/ http://www.geocities.com/appendicitis_disease/
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